‘Outlander’ book series finds new life on TV

Posted Saturday, Aug. 09, 2014  comments  Print Reprints


• 8 p.m. Saturday

• Starz

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Caitriona Balfe had no idea that Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander“ novels were such a big deal.

In fact, the Irish actress had never heard of the bestselling author until last summer.

Then, when Balfe landed an audition to star in the TV adaptation, she got her first clue.

“I took myself to my local bookstore and purchased the last volume of Outlander that they had,” Balfe says. “As I was paying, the cashier informed me that they were going to make a TV series out of it.

“I was chuckling to myself about that one.”

Days later, Balfe was cast as time-traveling Claire Randall, a World War II combat nurse mysteriously transported to 1743 Scotland.

Now, as Outlander is set to premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday on Starz, Balfe counts herself as one of Gabaldon’s loyal fans.

She has a lot of company. There are more than 25 million copies of the “Outlander“ books in print.

“It’s nice, as a new show, that we don’t have to go in search for that initial fan base,” Balfe says. “We’re lucky that Diana has given us her blessing.”

“Her fans have been so supportive,” leading man Sam Heughan adds. “They’ve created fan groups for the show. They’ve raised money for the charities Caitriona and I support. There’s even a group of them that tracks us down wherever we are filming up in the Scottish Highlands and they bake cakes for us and stuff.

“We find it lovely that they’ve accepted us. Hopefully, they’ll be pleased when they finally see the show.”

Based on an early screening of the first two episodes, the fans have nothing to worry about.

The show, which blends elements of historical fiction, romance and adventure with a light touch of sci-fi, is an entertaining and satisfying ride.

“It’s an incredible story,” Balfe says. “It has so many universal, timeless themes in it: loss and displacement and love and the search for home and what home really means for people.

“And for me, the opportunity to sink my teeth into material like that was a huge gift. Claire is an incredible character — so strong and so intelligent and really quite timeless.”

Claire’s adventure begins in 1945, when she and her husband take a romantic trip to Scotland. While passing through a mysterious formation of standing stones, she is suddenly thrust back in time, to a tumultuous chapter in Scottish history, a time of uprisings against the English crown.

When Claire meets Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and handsome Scottish warrior, there is immediate chemistry — and so begins a complicated love triangle with men from two very different centuries.

Speaking of romance, the beautifully filmed show is practically a mash note to Scotland. Executive producer and writer Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Galactica fame) chose wisely when he decided that Outlander had to be filmed on location instead of on a sound stage in Los Angeles.

Scotland becomes practically another character in the show.

“It would have been impossible really to film it anywhere else,” Balfe says. “The setting is so integral to the story.”

Outlander has gone the extra mile in countless ways, she adds, to make everything in the show as authentic as possible, from the sets to the wardrobes to the dialects.

In the second episode, for example, there’s a scene in which Claire dons traditional 18th-century clothes — and there are so many layers to wear, it’s almost as if she’s an astronaut preparing for space flight.

No wonder the women from that time period tended to let the men take charge, she says.

“The corsets restrict your lung capacity and the heavy skirts restrict your movement,” Balfe points out. “It’s hard to be a modern women with those constraints.”

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?